My chief complaint with last season’s Tottenham vintage was simple: our strikers couldn’t score consistently in the league. I battened down the Twitter hatches most weeks defending Harry’s dedication to 4-4-1-1 (my Rafael van der Vaart man love is fierce and sometimes blind), pinning our failures firmly on the sloping shoulders of messrs Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and Defoe.
This summer, of course, Daniel Levy acted on my constant tutting and managed to persuade Manchester City to part-finance Emmanuel Adebayor’s 12-month London sabbatical. Sure enough, three goals in his first two appearances followed and we all spent a few weeks looking forward to a season’s worth of goals and fiercely debating who’d make his best foil.
In the six games since that two goal salvo against Liverpool on 18 September, Adebayor has not scored a goal. Yet Spurs have won five out six of those games, he set up goals for Rafa in the Wigan and Arsenal matches, won a converted penalty against Newcastle, was involved in both strikes at Blackburn, hooked an assist over for Jermain Defoe’s game finisher at Craven Cottage yesterday and even Van der Vaart’s goal against QPR came as an indirect consequence of him harassing Daniel Gabbidon into a lax clearance. Like Scott Parker, he has yet to experience defeat in lilywhite. So, does his mini drought really matter?
There’s a trust from teammates to let him run with the ball and in his ability to keep possession.
I noticed the first signs of supporter concern on Twitter yesterday. We were all warned by Arsenal and City fans of his laziness and some were ready to sharpen the knives following an underwhelming second half. This is, of course, absolutely fine: everybody’s entitled to their opinion. Moreover, Crouchie set up a tonne of goals last season and offered an aerial threat whilst not scoring freely and was bombed out in the summer. Why should Adebayor not face a similar critique?
Here’s why: not only are an Adebayor-fronted Spurs unbeaten (and he’s been enormously involved in 90 per cent of team goals), but the formation now makes perfect sense. Yes, Parker’s one man protection racket is enormously (and perhaps more) important. But now, the team have a mobile, powerful and skillful focal point. Last season, Van der Vaart quickly realised there was little point threading intricate passes through to Crouch, knocking it long for pint-sized Jermain or doing much at all with Pav. Adebayor offers myriad options for Rafa and the rest of the team. There’s a trust from teammates to let him run with the ball and in his ability to keep possession. He’s particularly adept at finding galloping full-backs in space and offers a formidable aerial threat. Playing at the fulcrum of Tottenham’s full-blown attacking armada, there’s few more suitable.
Granted, he’s no Tevez (the good version). You won’t often find him haring after centre-backs hunting down possession. And, of course, we’d all prefer him to shed his current prolificacy in front of goal. But his sheer presence still equals a huge talent upgrade. And his presence within the team seems to suit him. He’s playing with a smile on his face (see: his and Gareth Bale’s marvelously effete celebration yesterday) and perhaps predictably gets off on Redknapp’s laissez-faire man management. If Tottenham can continue claiming wins with a misfiring chief striker, just how good might they be when he regains his touch?
Should his fallow spell stretch into double figures, expect the increasingly valid murmurings to gain volume. But I’m going to predict it won’t go on for much longer. In fact, I might put money on Villa being his next victims
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